Flightline © Benoit Photo
Highlighted by the $1-million, Grade I TVG Pacific Classic led by superstar Flightline, Del Mar will present a smashing five-stakes card Saturday that also features a trio of Grade II stakes on the grass and nearly $2.5 million in total purses, making it the richest racing day outside of the Breeders’ Cup in the track’s 83-year history.
Besides the 32nd edition of the TVG Pacific Classic, which will see five high-line stakes horses take on the undefeated 1/5 morning line favorite Flightline in Del Mar’s premier offering, there are a trio of $300,000 Grade II contests drawing milers, marathoners and 3-year-old aces, as well as a $125,000 dirt test for sophs as the warm-up act for the big boys that follow.
The TVG Pacific Classic is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race that gives the winner a guaranteed entry – with all fees paid – to the $6-million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland on November 5. Additionally, the $300,000 Del Mar Handicap Presented by the Japan Racing Association at a mile and three eighths on the lawn also is a “Win and You’re In” presentation, this one giving a guaranteed paid admission into the $4-million Breeders’ Cup Turf on the same November 5 program.
Del Mar’s Saturday 11-race program – starting with a first post of 1 p.m. – also will present a mandatory payout on its popular Pick Six bet that is sure to draw in handicappers who like to take a swing at potential large payoffs. Top it all off with sea breezes and sunshine as the standard order of the day at the seaside oval and it all adds up to the most exciting afternoon of the 2022 summer season.
The star of the day will be Hronis Racing and partners’ Flightline, the big 4-year-old colt by top sire Tapit who has gone four-for-four in runaway style in his ever-blooming career, including a pair of Grade I scores on both coasts. Patiently handled by veteran trainer John Sadler – the winner of three of the last four TVG Pacific Classics – Flightline has drilled remarkably well at Del Mar this summer giving every indication that the best might be yet to come as he tries the classic distance of a mile and one quarter for the first time. The “big horse” will be reunited with his regular rider, Flavien Prat, who will jet in from his current racing headquarters in New York for the race, which is scheduled to go off at approximately 5:50 p.m.
Set to tackle Flightline are five quality stakes horses. They are Zedan Racing Stables and Winstar Farm’s Country Grammer, Fox Hill Farms or Siena Farm’s Royal Ship, C R K Stable’s Express Train, Steve Moger’s Stilleto Boy and Jay Em Ess Stable’s Extra Hope.
The Del Mar Handicap, the track’s oldest stakes race, is being offered for the 83rd time as Race 11 Saturday. Heading the lineup for the marathon is Diaz-Valdez, Baalbek or Don Alberto’s Master Piece, winner of the Eddie Read Stakes earlier at the Del Mar meet. He’ll once again have Abel Cedillo in the tack for trainer Mike McCarthy.
The 36th running of the $300,000 Del Mar Mile is also on the agenda as Race 7. The Grade II special is headed by Anastasi, Ukegawa or Valazza’s Hong Kong Harry, topping a field of 10 turfers.
Also on the afternoon’s roster is the 78th running of the $300,000 Caesars Sportsbook Del Mar Derby for 3-year-olds at nine furlongs on the grass. Likely favorite in the affair that goes as Race 9 is Little Red Feather Racing and Madaket Stable’s Balnikhov, the winner of the Oceanside Stakes locally on Opening Day. Trainer Phil D’Amato once again has assigned turf specialist Umberto Rispoli to handle the Irish-bred gelding.
The other stakes on the card is the $125,000 Shared Belief Stakes run at a mile on the main track for 3-year-olds. The horse to beat in that one is SF Racing, Starlight Racing, et al’s Armagnac, who races out of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s barn and will be handled by Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez. It goes as Race 4 with a 2:30 post.